Start to finish progress notes for a platformer in Pulp (beginner)

there are screenshots of my current rooms at the bottom of this post :playdate_heart:

This thread is a public journal for me while I make my first Pulp game. I have been struggling with the documentation for pulp/script because it feels like some obvious things are left out that are not obvious to me, like that player movement would automatically be connected to the D-pad. I'm hoping writing my thoughts all out in one place will help me keep track of my ideas and progress but I would also love questions, input, critiques, reminders, resources, and encouragement from this community and maybe one of you will notice a mistake of mine before it drives me crazy :playdate_cry_laugh:

I hadn't heard of this yellow box until about a month ago when my friend told me about it and I was immediately smitten with the idea of a console that loves its indie devs back. I technically taught "video game design" classes years ago but it was for a summer camp for 6-9 year olds and we used Scratch and the kids weren't demanding fluid smooth movement like I am hoping for so I would consider myself a total beginner. I have experience with algorithms in Python and C that I'm hoping will help me get through this PulpScript learning curve.

I started browsing reddit, discord, and this forum a couple weeks ago and then began messing around in Pulp a few days ago. I have game ideas that feel very intimidating so I'm starting off with what I hope will be a simple tunnel exploration platformer. My working title is Smander Splunk! (originally was going with Splunker but a quick google search showed me a similar style game called Spelunker so that won't do). The premise of my game is that you are a tender hearted conservationist who finds a cave salamander that has been washed onto the surface by a severe rain event. You decide to return the salamander to its watery home by venturing into a karst cave system in search of flowing water. Along the way there are of course spikes to avoid, critters to collect to keep the salamander alive, and a convoluted maze of voids to navigate before you find flowing water.

Elements I need:

  • animated player (left and right facing) :heavy_check_mark:
  • multiple rooms, some with many narrow passages on the screen and others that are more open voids with ledges to jump to :heavy_check_mark:
  • world tiles representing cave walls and passages :heavy_check_mark:
  • edible critter items to collect :heavy_check_mark:
  • stalactite and stalagmite sprites that hurt the player :heavy_check_mark:

under the hood

  • gravity implementation that feels smooth
  • jump event that isn't irritating, I wan't it to feel really springy not like you have to perfectly time each button press to get the player to jump
  • counter UI to show how many snacks (snails and isopods) you've found for the salamander (someone on the dev discord suggested using label for this)
  • a scoring system. maybe this ^ translates to how many points you score? maybe it's speed based and you have to race against the clock to get to water before the salamander desiccates?
  • a catchy background tune
  • engaging sound effects
  • ??? probably other elements that I can't think of right now :playdate_eyebrow: :playdate_eyebrow:

Elements I want:

  • animated salamander player :heavy_check_mark:
    (for a second player option which is the salamander itself, if you make it to flowing water and release the salamander you unlock a bonus level where maybe you hunt as the salamander while swimming against the current?)
  • a rope tool that the player can use to rappel down vertical passages safely without falling? I'm envisioning something like press down arrow to tie off/anchor rope in the current tile, while it is anchored the player can walk off the ledge and crank to move up or down the passage, press down arrow again to untie?
    • maybe also extra pieces of rope can be found abandoned by spelunkers to extend the length of the player's rope to safely get down deeper passages?
  • in addition to avoiding falling into pits with stalagmites at the bottom, maybe some pits have deep stagnant water that can drown you?

My current status:
I have plenty of rooms laid out, my player is animated, I have animated items to collect with scripts to increase counters, and I have sprites that remove lives (but no code to set up how many lives you start with).

Biggest annoyance today:
I can't for the life of me figure out how to preview my rooms in the native emulator. When I click "Play" it just shows me a blank playdate screen. I downloaded a simple example platformer to try to reference the code structure and it loads fine in the emulator but I don't see any code it has that my game is missing. I have set the player's starting room and have doors between all my rooms so I was expecting to be able to see the first room without having my player's movement controls set up yet. If someone knows why this is happening please help me out :playdate_sick:

Goals for my next post:
I want to make world tiles that round out those corners in the passages, maybe even some that make the floor and ceiling less parallel?
I want to figure out how to code my player's movement!

Current screenshots:
Starting room (for now, I'm looking to set up the controls with the player already in possession of the salamander and then decide how I want to intro the game)

Some of my caves:

My questions for YOU:
Are my passage tiles too grainy? I really wanted the walls and paths to look semi continuous to emphasizes the porous nature of karst systems and I'm happy with how little contrast there is between those two tiles, but I'm worried it might be ugly or hard to look at/understand for others. Should I make the boundaries cleaner?

Also, how do y'all get those nice gifs of your animations?

That's all, bye for now!

1 Like

Small update, I haven't had the time to tackle the player movement yet but I made new tiles to round out the world! I'm much happier with how it's looking now :slight_smile:

My bugs and spikes moved, I cleared them all out to see what I was doing while adding the new world tiles and replaced them based on the new shapes. I also decided to rotate the snails so they are now climbing the walls which adds more variation.

Screenshots of some of my rooms:

Goal for next update:

Questions for y'all:
What do you think of the new world shapes?

Thanks and bye for now!

Hello! This looks cool! Lots of people doing more platformer stuff in Pulp lately so you'll be in good company.
As for your questions, I have a few answers.
My initial thought is that it might be too grainy, but everything sharpens up a lot on device, so it might be worth looking at there first before you change the whole art style. Cleaner boundaries wouldn't hurt, though.
Gifs are easy to get with the simulator, which is included in the SDK. It took me a little while to actually get it registered, but once you do it basically treats your computer like a Playdate, where you can download sideloaded stuff right into it and get gifs and video and good good bug testing info!
Also, on the updated screenshots, I think these look good. I like how fluid and curvy they are considering the Pulp limitations!

Just checking to make sure you figured out how to choose your starting location. Ultimately, it's going to be whatever world your Player tile is placed on. For example, in my 7DRL entry, I have a menu "world" with the Player using an arrow frame:

If I wanted to test one of my worlds, I'd need to temporarily place the Player tile in one of them (and would likely choose a different starting frame : ).